Birds are great builders! Every year they carefully select materials to weave a safe place to lay their eggs and raise their hatchlings. It looks like pretty hard work too! This year Fiddlebug wanted to give them a little help by putting together a special basket of colorful nesting supplies. He is going to put it in a safe place where his feathered friends can get to it easily without having to fly too far from their nesting site. Later this summer, once the baby birds have grown up and flown off into the world, Fiddlebug has plans to look around for nests that have his colorful bits woven into them. That way the little dragon will be able to put together a basket with more of the bird’s favorite materials in it next year!
If you would like to help your local bird population out with some building supplies, here are directions for Fiddlebug’s Bird Nest Baskets:
What you need:
For the Basket –
Clear plastic wrap
About twenty 8 inch long pieces of twine or thin yarn
White school glue (the liquid kind)
For the Nesting Supplies –
You want to stick with natural fibers that will biodegrade, or able to break down and rejoin nature, over time. I’ve chosen felt, cotton string, some dryer lint, and since my son got a recent hair cut, some of his hair. Avoid plastics and nylons. Metals don’t do well either as they might poke the babies. Be creative!
What you do:
1) Flip one bowl upside down and cover it tightly with the clear plastic wrap.
2) Fill the other bowl with white school glue.
3) Dip each piece of twine or thin yarn into the white glue, making sure it is well coated. Remove excess by pulling the piece of yarn through your loosely pinched first finger and thumb.
4) Drape or wrap your glue coated yarn on the plastic covered bowl.
5) Repeat steps 3 and 4, making sure to drape and wrap the pieces differently so they overlap each time to form your basket. You will want to use all of the pieces. If it looks like you need more to make your basket stronger, have your big person cut some more and keep going.
6) Let your basket dry. This may take a day or two, so be patient.
7) When the basket is dry, carefully remove it from the bowl. You may have to remove it with the plastic wrap still attached and then carefully peal the plastic wrap away from the yarn. A big person is very helpful for this step.
8) Add the nesting supplies to the basket.
9) With your big person’s help, find a safe place to put the new basket outside where the birds can get to it easily. It will probably take them a few days to find it and get comfortable enough to use the materials you have offered them. You can put some bird seed close by to help attract them if you’d like!
Note: When it rains, your basket will start to come apart. This is a good thing! The glue will wash away without hurting anything, and the yarn or twine will become nesting materials as well!
What did you learn today? What new thing did you touch or taste of hear or read about? How did you reach into a problem, turn its gears, oil its parts, nudge it into a solution? Did you finally get that thing that's been frustrating you to make sense? Did someone hand you a new idea and let you hold it up to your own inner light so you could turn it and check it out from all angles before you made it your own? What did your hands create? Did you talk to someone new? What did they have to say and what did you have to say to them? Did you laugh? Did you take a few minutes to daydream about something beautiful? Did you face something that scares the bejeepers out of you? Did you learn something completely new about the person that you are or the body that you wear?
Did you do all of that in a building away from home, or while you were out and about, or at your kitchen table? Did you do it when you were 3, or 12, or 46, or 99 years old?
How was school today? Teach us your new thing!
Father Bat is teaching Bart about sound. He told Bart that sound travels in invisible waves through the air. As part of his example, Father Bat built a silly telephone that allows sound waves to travel through string from one person to another. Bart was so excited about the whole thing that he couldn’t wait to show it to his friends Bart and Craig. They all agreed that it would make a great project to share with everyone, so they brought the telephone they built over for this week’s project.
Here’s what you need to build your own:
What you need
1 piece of heavy string or thin yarn that is about 3 feet long
2 plastic yogurt cups (tin cans work too, just be careful of sharp edges)
Something to poke a hole in the bottom of each cup (and a big person to help you)
Two people to use the phones
What you do
1) Poke a hole in the bottom of each cup
2) Thread the string through the bottom of the first cup and secure it with a larger knot on the inside of the cup
3) Thread the other end of the string from the outside to the inside of the other cup and secure it on the inside with a large knot as well.
4) Each person gets one cup.
5) Pull the string tight between the two cups. This is very important. The string needs to be tight for the sound waves to travel along it.
6) Take turns talking in a low voice directly into one cup while the other person holds the other up to their ear to listen.
It may be hard to hear each other well through your new telephone because sound waves don’t travel as well over fuzzy string as they do in the air, but part of the fun is seeing how many silly things you each think the other one said! (Animal sounds are especially silly too!)
Last weekend was the annual fall West Virginia Writers Inc. overnight board meeting. It's an overnight because it is the first meeting where things begin to be finalized for our upcoming spring conference in June, the annual contest is put together, outgoing and incoming board member transitions are discussed, and a million other "little" thing are smoothed out. To say that there is a lot to discuss and decide would be an understatement. While I am no longer on the board, and have stepped down as Regional Representative, I love to be active in the group. First, because WV Writers Inc. works hard to encourage writers and literacy throughout our state. Not only that, we are happy to include writers and readers from all over our country and internationally. In other words, this group does good work and isn't afraid to reach out. Secondly, writing is a pretty solo process most of the time. While writers write because we love it and we need to share our words, it can get aggravating, lonely, frustrating, and downright depressing unless you interact with other writers who understand the glories and horrors of the process. Being active in the group gives me plenty of opportunity to interact with writers on all levels. The best part is that we all cheer each other on instead of see each other as competition. Interestingly enough, I have found that my favorite part of this whole writing thing is helping other writers. Yep, I said it. I prefer (most days) the role of support staff to the role of author. It's good to know these things about myself.
So, how am I staying active? Well, first I have agreed to be this year's annual Contest Coordinator! I'm pretty excited about this job. Over the next few weeks I will be updating contest forms, sharing information about categories (I'm very excited about our two revolving categories this year, and the prompts for our young writers are spectacular!), and hunting down judges (okay, this is the hard part for me, but I'll get it done!). The contest opens in January, so warm up your writing hand and get the words flowing now! We want to give the judges as hard of a decision as possible and create plenty of positive competition between entrants so they bring their best to the table.
I also raised my hand to work the Registration Table at this year's spring conference. My partner is one amazing woman who always has a smile. We have an awesome intern (who may even know that she has been "voluntold" for the post by now) as well, so you can be assured of a really good start to your conference experience when you check in for the weekend. I think it will be fun. I also think that I'm going to need to make some arrangements to copy notes from various workshops since I'll have my hands full and won't have time to attend.
I am happy to say that I managed not to land myself on any other major committees unless you count my attachment to the advertising crew as part of my contest coordinating. This is good news, because there is a fine line between helping and overextending. I think that I've managed to keep my jobs to a point where I can devote good time to everything without feeling frayed and overwhelmed. I should even have time to focus on my own writing while I handle my work for the group. I'm proud of this. It lets me know that I'm getting good enough at saying "no" to be able to start saying "yes" in a much better way. Finding a good balance is an art form.
That is all from my world for now. I hope your week is filled with work that makes you feel alive, and people who help you celebrate the fact!
I also wanted to share that Rocky did well on his Guy's Only Weekend! He is now officially a great pouncer and can climb out of his carrier if the top is left open. It's amazing how fast little things grow!
If you are like the Dragon family, summer is filled with fun outside in the sunshine! All those outdoor things take energy to do, but sometimes when it’s hot thinking of warm food can make your tummy sort yucky feeling. Mother Dragon has just the right recipe for lunchtime that is fun to make, yummy to eat and nice and cool too!
This is a great “together activity” since younglings need a big person to get everything ready before the fun building part starts.
What you need:
1 pizza crust – you can make your own, buy the refrigerated dough, or pick up one of the pre-made kind
1 package of cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese.
1 packet of dip or dressing mix – I used spinach and herb dip mix, but ranch or Italian powdered dressing mix works great too
Fresh diced or shredded vegetables – any kind you like. I used diced tomatoes, diced red onion, thawed frozen peas, and shredded carrots.
1 cup of your favorite shredded cheese. I used marble cheddar
What you do:
1) Mix 1 packet of dip or dressing mix with your cream cheese and set it aside.
2) If you need to bake your pizza crust, do so and let it cool. (This is a big person part.)
3) Ask your big person to dice or shred your vegetables and put them into individual bowls.
4) Put your shredded cheese into its own bowl too.
5) Once the pizza crust is cool, spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over it.
6) Sprinkle each vegetable and the cheese over the pizza with your clean little hands.
7) Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours so it’s nice and chilly in time to eat.
8) Cut, serve and enjoy!
Mother Dragon wanted me to add that this is a nice recipe to play with so you can introduce your family to new vegetables in a fun way or just have something new and different each time! If you are more of a meat eater, try it with chicken or tuna salad instead of the cream cheese mixture. Try sliced strawberries or dried cranberries for something zingy – be brave!
While I would have loved to be out on the kayaks last weekend enjoying the holiday, Mr. Rocky (and his Mohawk) is still pretty dependent and would have required a kitten-sitter. Oddly enough, kitten sitters are hard to come by on beautiful holiday weekends *laughing* so we stayed home. This did, however, give me a chance to get a few things done. This may seem like an odd way to celebrate Labor Day, but hey, when you love your work you should embrace it! So, here are a few things that I accomplished over the weekend:
1. I did a little updating on the website. Nothing HUGE, but there are some additions. First, I added the Sheridan Starswimmer page and a nice big cover shot to the homepage as well.
2. I spent a little (okay, more than I thought I was going to) time putting together the Sheridan Starswimmer e-book editions. You can find the e-Pub version on Smashwords and get a Kindle version at Amazon.
3. While I was at it, I decided to attack Queen Calla's Heroes. Here is a cautionary tale for you folks: When you don't think your editor is correct in their punctuation theory, look it up. Don't just trust them to be smarter than you are - even if they are typically smarter than you are in these things. For some unknown reason, my former editor had a day where they glitched on dialog punctuation. They had a convincing argument for their theory. Since I typically have a comma migration problem - they either all leave a piece or they overpopulate and live where they don't belong - I went ahead with their suggestion. This suggestion happened to be incorrect. I have been ignoring the problem for quite a while. Far too long in fact. BUT, over the weekend I put on my editing armor, took firm control of the backspace key, and made the necessary changes. While I was in there, I tightened things up a bit. I also caught a couple of small errors. It's amazing how many things can slip by after you've read something a few dozen times. The end result is that Queen Calla's Heroes is looking much better than it did previously. An unfortunate side effect is that I have inventory on hand that is no longer current (and incorrectly punctuated) and no good ones here to sell.
4. Since Queen Calla's Heroes got a good makeover, I decided that it too should join the e-book nation. The e-Pub version is available at Smashwords and the Kindle version is available at Amazon.
5. Fiddlebug also joined Smashwords. The Kindle version has been available for some time.
For those of you who might be asking about the limited format for e-books, illustrations make a big difference on e-readers. In a text only (or very limited illustration) book, the program you are reading from can allow you to change font, text size, etc.. This allows for better flow.In order to keep text and pictures in somewhat the right order and size, I have to upload documents that force them to stay in my chosen layout. This limits what your tablet or phone can be allowed to alter. One day, I have confidence that picture books will be just as manageable as novels in digital format. For now, e-Pub is the most stable way to go so that is the version I make available. Kindle is a monster of its own, and handles the file conversion differently. Luckily, in this case, things seemed to work out. I did make a small attempt at using the Kindle Kids Book Creator, but was not all that happy with the results on my tablet (my computer's operating system is not compatible with the program). I will continue to explore the options as they appear, but no matter how you slice it, digital readers are just not as snuggle up and read a bedtime story friendly as a book (in my opinion anyway) so I'm not as focused on digital versions as I maybe should be.
In upcoming news, I believe I am going to explore Zazzle.com for other ways to share the art from my books. I like the idea of pillows for the Sheridan Starswimmer book and flip flops printed with Clyde illustrations. The only thing that concerns me is the price. I'm not spectacular at marketing in the first place. Selling books is hard enough. And yet, the thought of Fiddlebug phone covers makes me smile. We shall see.
So, now that I've babbled for a while, please check out the new offerings. Let me know what you think of my future plans. Pass my website to your friends. Most of all, have a spectacular week!
Fiddlebug keeps a lot of things on his craft shelves for days when he needs something to do. After finding a bunch of magnets that had old advertising on them, Fiddlebug got a great idea to make something special for his parents. He thought he’d share the idea with you, so you could make a great gift too! Remember to ask an adult for help if you need it.
What you need:
Some old, flat magnets (we get them on our phone books sometimes or at fairs)
Copies of photographs that you like
Flexible craft glue
What you do:
Place your photograph on a flat surface. Lay your magnet with the black side down on top of the photo over the part that you want as your new magnetic picture. Trace around the outline of the magnet carefully so that the line shows up on your photo. Carefully cut along the line. Put a thin layer of flexible craft glue on the advertisement side of the magnet and glue the cut out picture to it. Let it dry.
Mother Dragon uses her magnets to show off Fiddlebug’s artwork on her refrigerator, and to keep her grocery list handy on the freezer door. Father Dragon keeps a few in his work area to hold up Fiddlebug’s project plans, and keep his schedule in order. The whole Dragon family loves the reminders of special memories. Fiddlebug hopes you will like yours just as much!
Being a homeschooling parent for 13 years and an independent author/illustrator makes a person learn quite a bit about a lot of things. Now it's time to pass it on!